My First Semester As A College Athlete

My First Semester As A College Athlete

Nothing worth having comes easy.
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When I signed my contract, I was ecstatic. When I packed up and moved to school, I was nervous and hesitant. When the training got tough and I was exhausted, I was unsure. But now that my first season is over, I could not be more thankful and sure of my choice to attend San Diego State University and compete on the women's rowing team. The story to getting here is long, but I knew it was important that I tell it.

Moving to school is a challenge for anyone, and in different ways. Moving to college was tough for me because on top of the stress of becoming a college student, I was becoming a college athlete. I had spent the summer training on my own, working every day to increase my endurance, fitness and stamina in order to impress my coaches during our preliminary assessments. I was entering an environment where there was a new, greater level of competition than what I was used to, all while doing so without my high school teammates. I had to find some kind of comfort in the new people I was meeting to get through the start of our season and the 6000-meter rowing machine test that would determine how we stood on the team as the season got started. That test was crucial, and it had been the focus of my summer. Training, training, and more training to meet the numbers and try to do better than that. I needed to meet the time standard for this test.

And I didn't. On the day of the test, I came up short. I rowed as hard as I could, and I could tell you all of the reasons I think I didn't make the time standard that day, but if this semester has taught me anything, it's the stop making excuses. I didn't make it, I had failed, and I had to keep working.

After that test day early on in the semester, I had to keep training. While those who met the standard got to row on beautiful Mission Bay, I spent every morning back on the rowing machine. Week after week, I'd attempt the 6000-meter test again. And for an entire month, I was stuck on campus training without water to row on.

During that month I was tested to a greater degree than I expected to be during my first semester. Being off the water made me question my decision to be here, and that is something I don't like to admit, but it's the truth. I wondered about what I was doing, why I couldn't measure up to the time standard. I was tired and during a time where a lot of students were experiencing the tough adjustment of being away from home, I was experiencing that and my fear of failure week after week, when I would retest. That fear shaped me in huge ways.

On the day that I passed the test, I was overcome with emotion. I had spent weeks in fear of failure, but at the same time, I realized I was afraid of my own strength. The challenge of the assessment that I faced during my first semester taught me that fearing the worst isn't going to get you anywhere, and it's better to remember that you're strong, capable, and strength will overcome that fear of defeat. I was finally able to row with my teammates and it was the greatest gift ever to get back on the water.

But that work didn't stop there. The rowing machine was still a subject of worry for me, and when it was incorporated into our weekly training, it caused me plenty of stress. The weeks got longer, as we entered 20-hour training weeks. While balancing sleep, studies, and any bit of a social life, we trained for 20 hours a week. Double-days are normal days for us, as are 5:30 am alarm clocks. The exhaustion we experienced became so great that it didn't really exist anymore- we were all so used to it that it was common place in our lives. The work got harder and the days seemed to get longer. None of what I was experiencing was easy. There were tough workouts, tough talks from my coach, and tough lessons to learn each day.

From September to November we were locked in the grind of train, sleep, eat (study?), repeat. And time flew by. As it did, I began to get into my rhythm and started learning a lot. I also realized I had a lot of people to thank. My trainer from home, Kristin, stuck by me through the toughest realizations, toughest moments, and worst points of the semester. She motivated me, helped me understand my potential, and inspired my goals. My mom was always there to listen and understand, even from far away. She got it, and she let me be frustrated. My family and friends who understood when I was busy or exhausted helped me keep training.

The girls I've met here have impacted me immensely. Older girls who I didn't think knew my name gave me pointers and showed that they cared. Our team captains instilled a work ethic in our team that inspires me personally and expected excellence each day. My primary coach taught me some of the greatest lessons about life from each day of hard work as a rower, and she is someone I look up to daily now.

Being a college athlete is much different than what I anticipated. A lot of the things I've experienced in this first semester are things I predicted. But a lot is different, unexpected, new, and challenging. My life revolves around my sport. My winter break ends early to train, our spring break doesn't exist, and summer is also dedicated to the next season or the next rowing machine test. A lot of people would view the journey of this first season as something awful and unpleasant. But that's where we differ as athletes. Some moments can be painful, many even. Some days can be awful. But when we see our hard work pay off in the rowing machine or the water, see our coach recognize our strides toward improvement, and see our fitness increase as we close off a great semester, we don't see the awful or the unpleasant- we see the journey to excellence. We see the grind and how empowering it is to be an athlete. And we see the journey itself as the reward.

This semester I've learned so much. Failure does not define your character, and should not define your work ethic- it must push you to keep going. Hard work is the greatest virtue of all. And as many athletes say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Always be the tough one in a sea of people. Never make excuses. And if all else fails, while working to make the people you love proud, make yourself proud too.

I'm thankful for the experience, the people and the team that has welcomed me with open arms. I'm excited to train hard over winter break to come back stronger. I can't wait for the spring season. My first semester as a college rower has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Nothing worth having comes easy.

Cover Image Credit: SDSU News Center

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Till's Return: The Gorilla Is Back

Liverpool's Darren Till Is Ready To Take Out Everyone

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The #3 ranked fighter in the welterweight division former title challenger Darren Till has recently expressed that he is ready to get into the octagon multiple times this year as he aims to get that top spot in the division. He has said since UFC 228 with the bout between himself and the current UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley he has essentially reassessed the situation. He is ready to capitalize on the lessons he has learned while showing why he is still the biggest challenger in the 170-pound division.

He has called out all names but he has not hesitated to express his interest in getting that rematch with the champion "The Chosen One" Tyron Woodley because he knows and is confident he has the skill to defeat Tyron. The Gorilla is definitely ready to be the Main Event on the London card in March but there is no clear set opponent yet.

Rumors began to spread in the mix martial arts world that Darren Till would be facing Colby Covington but it was not set in stone. Darren would have much more to win if he took on Colby and dismantled him. He would resolidify himself as the #1 Title challenger as Colby would have a lot more to lose. Colby Covington does not seem to be on the best of terms with the UFC as is so it seems like this would be the most appropriate fight to make since Kamaru Usman vs Tyron Woodley was booked for UFC 235 for the belt.

Darren Till is absolutely ready to get back into action but many would like to see him step into the Middleweight division and show what he can do. He does not want any rest and wants to fight 3 times or more in 2019 as it looks to be a promising year. The Gorilla recently received a call out for the London card by #9 ranked welterweight Jorge Masvidal as they both share the same amount of interest in the past but the fight was never booked.

Another huge fight he has interest in is with the "Style Bender" from the middleweight division, top prospect Israel Adesanya which would be absolute madness and would be a huge sell for the business. But in the meantime, he does believe he will stay at welterweight even though the division is in a very weird place right now. He expressed his dislike for Colby but knows the game Colby Covington is trying to play. A fight between Darren Till and the (Former?) Interim Title holder Colby Covington would definitely put a clear understanding to who the next title challenger could be in the division for Tyron Woodley.

The 26-year-old has 17 wins and 1 loss with 1 draw in his mix martial arts career. The last time we saw the #3 ranked "Gorilla" Darren Till was when he took on Tyron Woodley who become the first person to finish and stop Darren giving him his first loss at UFC 228. It is very exciting to see Darren so hungry and eager to get back in the cage. Hopefully, it will be in the Main Event in London.

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